When looking into software companies, you need to ask yourself several questions, starting with what your needs are. Build a list of requirements. Think about whether or not you’re going to be international. Maybe not to start out, but in the future—you don’t want to select a software provider now who won’t meet your needs in the future. The third point is existing partners or processors. What are some of the partners you currently have? What are the processors that you’re using as a company for payment getaways?
Next is conversion or data imports. What are the imports that come in, because that will cost you. The last area you should think about would be regulatory constraints.
Ask yourself: What is my timeline? This is before you even start to select a software provider—find out when you will have product ready. Are your partners lined up? Is staff in place? What about credit card processing? A website? Is it up and running so the software can just plug into the site? What about legal? Have you had an MLM attorney review your documents, especially the policies and procedures? If you’re an existing company, the conversion would be an issue—what would the timeline be for that?
What is your budget? What can you realistically afford? Can you postpone some of the features you want to maybe phase 2 or a phase 3 approach?
When you look at software providers, see if they have a flat rate or per unit pricing. Another area to pay attention to would be hosted versus on-the-premises. Something very popular these days is a subscription model where the software provider hosts a system for you. It’s a lot less money, unless you go with a perpetual license—you take the software and take it in house and put it on your servers.
Look at free support versus paid support—what is the support line? And then also, model pricing versus one size fits all.
Compile a list of software providers: I always recommend you look at least two or three because software in this industry is not inexpensive. Go to experts in the industry: trade publications like the DSA and the DSWA. Talk to existing direct sales companies—call them. Sometimes you can get on Google and search (a little more chancy than the other options). Talk to consultants or advisors in the industry that deal with companies.
Make sure you check out the providers’ references, and define your compensation plan before you go with any software provider—you don’t want to sign an agreement and have your software provider coming back to you asking for more money.
Be prepared for a demo. Determine if they are just trying to close the deal or if the software really is right for you. Demos should last between 45 minutes to an hour, and if it goes much longer than that, you might not want to go with that provider—your time is important.
Ask for a dummy demo site or a sandbox you can experiment with after you’ve viewed the demo. They should allow you to play with their software. Review their service agreement before signing.
Go through these steps, what I like to call the nine questions to ask before selecting the software, before making your decision. Ask a software provider: what are your weaknesses? What are your strengths? If they tell you they don’t think they have any weaknesses, that should raise a red flag. Remember this in closing: there is not a perfect software provider out there off the shelf, and if you find one, call me. There are good, bad and ugly just like anything else in this industry, and it’s very important to know that it isn’t perfect. I wish you the best as you go through. Keep in mind that the software is essential because it’s keeping track of everything in your business.